RE: Hormel Foods,
I.J. Holtan clips clippings -- Oct. 11, 20067

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Chamber Recognizes Holton with Lifetime Achievement Award

By Tim Ruzek
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

When someone asks what he did for a career, I.J. Holton often just says, 'I worked at Hormel's.'

Holton neglects to mention that he led the Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp., a Fortune 500 company, said Kermit Hoversten, a longtime friend and business associate, on Wednesday.

It's an example of the modesty and humility shown by Holton, a man credited, along with his successor Richard Knowlton, for fighting to keep Hormel's flagship plant in Austin during the 1970s when the company looked at other cities for a new facility. 'We cannot underestimate how important that decision was to the ultimate success of the city of Austin,' Hoversten said. 'And we are truly grateful to Jim for his foresight, his ability to see what needed to be done and the courage under the circumstances to do it.'

The Austin Area Chamber of Commerce honored the 88-year-old Holton at its fall meeting Wednesday, although Holton admitted he almost declined the invitation to be honored.

'I'm so glad I gave it a second thought,' Holton told the crowd at Lansing Corners restaurant.

Holton, who also goes by Jim, became the sixth Austin businessman to get the Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award that recognizes outstanding business accomplishments and a lifetime of community service. Hoversten, a fellow recipient of the award, introduced Holton, calling him 'probably one of the most admired' people in Austin.

Holton and the flagship plant for Hormel both have remained in Austin since he announced in 1978 that the company would build a $100 million, state-of-the-art plant just north of the old facility. It was the largest capital investment in Hormel's history.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Holton joined Hormel in 1947, becoming one of its two attorneys. He became president in 1969, adding the title of chief executive officer two years later. He served as president until 1979, and retired from the company in 1983.

He's greatly pleased with Hormel's progress 'since I left the joint,' Holton said. The company will continue to prosper for a long time, he said, and it's an 'enormous advantage' to the community to have Hormel here.

At retirement, Holton and his wife Adelaide chose to stay in Austin and they never regretted it, he said, adding, 'This is home.' In June, Adelaide Holton, his wife of 66 years, died at 87.

Outside of the corporate world, Holton has contributed in various ways to the community. He has been a part of groups such as the Austin Community Scholarship Committee, YMCA, United Way, American Legion, VFW, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Boy Scouts, American Red Cross and Austin Area Foundation. He also led the fundraising effort for a new Austin Public Library.

Holton makes financial contributions but seems to not want the recognition, Hoversten said. A lot of what Holton does, Hoversten added, is done anonymously.


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Former Hormel Head Honored


At 88, I.J. Holton can still quickly display the wit and dry sense of humor so many of his friends and acquaintances know him for.

Holton, the former CEO of Geo. A. Hormel & Company (now Hormel Foods Corporation), was awarded the Austin Area Chamber of

Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award Wednesday. After a lengthy and accolade-filled introduction by longtime friend and past lifetime achievement award winner Kermit Hoversten, Holton waited for the audience at Lansing Corners Supper Club to quiet down and said, “The only thing missing is a coffin.”

Holton moved to Austin in 1947 after a military career during which he worked for Gen. George Patton, served in the invasion of Normandy, and earned five campaign stars during his rise from the rank of private to captain and eventually a battlefield promotion to major. Holton was orignally hired at Hormel as one of two lawyers in the company's legal department, but rose through the ranks until being named CEO in 1972. He retired a decade later and still lives in Austin.

“I'm very high on Austin. Adelaide and I decided at the time of retirement that this would be our home,” Holton said. “This is home. This has been home, and at age 88, I'm determined it will be home as long as it can be.”

Holton's wife of 66 years, Adelaide, died in June.

Hoversten described his friend, “Jim” Holton, as “militantly modest” and someone who acts selflessly.

“He's the kind of person who makes substantial contributions but a lot of what he does, he does anonymously,” Hoversten said. “You won't find many people with his energy and his ability to get up and get things done.”

Holton is regarded as a driving force behind building a new flagship plant for Hormel in Austin, which opened in 1982. The 1 million square-foot, $100 million construction project was the largest in Hormel history.

“We cannot underestimate how important that was for the city of Austin,” Hoversten said.

During his time with Hormel and after his retirement, Holton was active in many community organizations, and was the director of the Austin YMCA and the Mower County chapter of the American Red Cross, the president of the Austin Community Scholarship Committee, the chairman of the Austin Public Library fundraising campaign, and a member of the American Legion and CFW, among other groups.

“The city of Austin today is a better place because Jim and his wife decided to stay here,” Hoversten said. Holton displayed both the wit and modesty his friends know him for in receiving the award.

“When I received the letter from Sandy (Forstner, chamber executive director), my first thought was ‘who needs it,' but then I thought about it, and these are the people who have supported me over the years, especially when things got rough, to say the least,” Holton said.

He said he is “enormously pleased” with the progress his past company has made, and said, “I think the golden years have been with us and will continue a long time.”

HTMLization by Kermit Kittleson, Oct. 11, 2007
Submitted to MnGenWeb by K. Pike